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that no regard was due either to miracles, or to any other evidence, so long as that capital and decisive one, that sign from heaven, on which they had set their hearts, was wanting. And this accounts also for another thing no less extraordinary, at which some persons have been much surprised and offended; namely, that our Saviour constantly refused to give them the sign they demanded. If this sign, it is said, would have convinced and converted them; why should they not have been gratified with it? The fact was, that they could not possibly be gratified with it; because it was inconsistent with that humble and lowly character, in which, for the wisest reasons, God designed, and the prophets foretold, that the Redeemer of the world should actually appear. The sign they wished for was founded on an expectation of his descending visibly from heaven to this lower world with the utmost splendour and magnificence. Whereas it was always intended and predicted that he should be born of an earthly parent; should live in an obscure and indigent condition of life; should be despised, rejected, put to death
cross, laid in the grave, and rise from it again the third day. And therefore his almost constant reply, when they asked a sign, was, "An evil and adulterous generation “seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas*" By which figurative allusion, he meant to signify his own death,
burial, and resurrection. This was in effect
saying to them, "You ask a sign from heaven; but the only sign I shall vouchsafe
to give you, will be a sign from the earth. Instead of descending from above, as you expect, in visible pomp and triumph, I shail rise with still greater triumph from the grave, after being numbered three days with the dead."
Still however they persisted in demanding their favourite sign; and with this false idea of the Messiah's character in their mind, which could never be rooted out, it is
easy to see how very ill disposed they must be to receive and acknowledge a humble, suffering, crucified Redeemer. That he was "the son of a carpenter; that he was born "at an inn, and laid in a manger; that he
* Matt. xii. 39; xvi. 4:
← eat and drank with publicans and sinners, "and had not where to lay his head;" these were circumstances of themselves fully sufficient to shock their prejudices and disgust their pride. But when he was moreover betrayed into the hands of his enemies, was mocked and buffeted, and scourged, and at length nailed to the cross; this they must consider as the most undeniable proof of his being an impostor, and would as soon have believed Barabbas to have been their Messiah as him. If, indeed, even then, he would have given them what they wanted, a sign from Heaven; if he would have come down from the cross, would have made his appearance again, as from heaven, with every external mark of celestial magnificence, and restored the kingdom again to Israel, they declared that they would still have believed on him. "If he *be THE KING OF ISRAEL," said they, let him now come down from the cross*" let him openly show his regal power, " and
we will believe him." He saved others, it is true, he worked many astonishing miracles; but, unless he saved himself too,
* Matt. xxvii. 42.
unless he answered their exalted notions of the Messiah, he could not possibly be the Son of God. His miracles must have been wrought by Beelzebub, and he as little worthy of credit as the malefactors who suffered with him.
Such were the prepossessions which made CHRIST
CRUCIFIED A STUMBLING
BLOCK TO THE JEWS. The prejudices
which made him FOOLISHNESS TO THE GREEKS, were of a different nature. The Greeks were at that time, when the Gospel was first preached to them, as they had been long before, the polite scholars and the fashionable philosophers of the age. The great business and delight of these men was to speculate on nice metaphysical points, such as, the first principles and elements of things, the nature of the gods, the nature of the human soul, the chief good, the several divisions of virtue, the origin of good and evil, and other subjects of the same kind. In these disquisitions, all that they aimed at was, not to arrive at certainty (for that many of them declared to be absolutely impossible) much less to apply the result of their disputations to any one useful purpose
of life; but merely to indulge an insatiable appetite for something new, to gratify an idle and vain curiosity, to amuse themselves and others with subtle arguments and acute distinctions, to show their ingenuity in managing a dispute, in proposing captious and artful questions, in creating doubts, and raising difficulties on the plainest points, in refining and explaining away every topic they discussed into perplexity and confusion, and leaving the mind more dissatisfied and uninformed at the conclusion than it was at the beginning of the debate. This they imagined, like many other philosophers in our own times, to be the very perfection of human wisdom; they thought it worthy of the gods themselves; and that of course, whoever came commissioned from Heaven to teach religion to mankind, would teach it in all the forms of the schools, with the subtlety of a sophist, and the eloquence of a rhetorician. It is easy to conceive, then, how exceedingly they must be disappointed, when a new religion was proposed to them, consisting chiefly of a few plain facts, and practical precepts, calculated, not to amuse the fancy, but to reform the heart; delivered without method or ornaQ 3